Mariners option first baseman Smoak to Class AAA Tacoma

CHICAGO — Has time run out on first baseman Justin Smoak with the Seattle Mariners?

Smoak was optioned to Class AAA Tacoma after concluding a rehab assignment in his recovery from a strained left quadriceps muscle. He hasn’t played in the majors since serving as a defensive replacement on June 9 at Tampa Bay.

The move suggests the Mariners prefer Logan Morrison, and perhaps Corey Hart, at first base over Smoak, who was just 10-for-49 (.204) in 13 rehab games for the Rainiers.

“We only have so many spots,” McClendon said. “LoMo is playing extremely well. He’s been a big lift for us. Smoaky will continue to get at-bats there and get sharp. Listen, at some point, he’ll be helping this club.”

Smoak, 27, batted .208 for the Mariners in 63 games for the Mariners prior to his injury with seven homers and 29 RBI.

Paxton update

Left-hander James Paxton is ready for the next step in his recovery from a strained back muscle — a simulated game — after experiencing no problems in a 52-pitch bullpen workout prior to Friday’s game.

“It felt really good,” Paxton said. “I felt loose and threw all of my pitches. Everything felt good. The next step is a sim game on Tuesday. Two innings.”

Paxton suffered the injury April 8 while beating the Angels in the home opener. He made a rehab start May 24 for Tacoma but encountered soreness in his shoulder that delayed his recovery.

Short hops

The Mariners entered the weekend leading the American League with a 3.20 ERA. They’ve pulled ahead of Oakland, who were second at 3.23. Kansas City ranked third at 3.67. … The Mariners were 16-20 on Independence Day after Friday’s loss. The Mariners have lost 22 of their last 26 games at U.S. Cellular Field and are 7-28 against the White Sox since the start of the 2010 season.

Looking back

It was 19 years ago today — July 5, 1995— that first baseman Tino Martinez had, perhaps, the finest game of his career by going 5-for-5 with two homers and five RBI in Detroit.

And it wasn’t enough. The Mariners still lost 8-6.

Martinez had three other five-hit games in his 16-year career, including one on June 24, 1997 while playing for the Yankees. He had two homers and four RBI in that game, which was also in Detroit. New York won 12-9.

On tap

The Mariners and White Sox continue their three-game weekend series at 11:10 a.m. PDT today at U.S. Cellular Field.

The clubs conclude their series at 11:10 a.m. Sunday before the Mariners return home for seven games prior to the All-Star break.

They open a four-game series Monday against Minnesota before playing three games next weekend against Oakland.

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